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Plea to extend Norfolk dementia pilot following review of Admiral Nurses’ impact

PUBLISHED: 06:30 19 July 2014

Zena Aldridge, Norfolk's lead Admiral nurse, speaking at the Positive About Ageing conference. Photo: Bill Smith

Zena Aldridge, Norfolk's lead Admiral nurse, speaking at the Positive About Ageing conference. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Calls have been made to expand a pioneering dementia pilot in Norfolk after an almost £110,000 investment resulted in more than £400,000 savings for health and social services in less than a year.

‘Priceless’ support

A carer, whose husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease five years ago, said the Admiral Nurse scheme had been “priceless” in helping her to cope.

Mary Morris, of Mattishall, has received help from an Admiral Nurse for the last year.

The 72-year-old said she no longer felt lonely and isolated and had the support she needed to care for her husband Patrick, 76.

She added that she had not been to see her GP as much because the nurse helped meet her emotional needs.

“It has been a wonderful service. It had been very difficult to find help, but when I heard that Admiral Nurses were for carers, I though ‘that is what I need’ and it has been such a help.”

“She understands very well what my needs are and the stress you have when you are looking after a loved one 24/7. Whatever problem you have, you can talk about it,” she said.

Mrs Morris said the Admiral Nurse had put her in touch with the Pabulum Cafe in Wymondham, discussed their end of life wishes, and put them in touch with other services.

She added: “I would be distraught if that funding was not replaced and suddenly we would find there is no one. We are very lucky and humble that we are in an area that has access to an Admiral Nurse. It is priceless.”

Norfolk’s first Admiral Nurses began working in part of Breckland last year to improve the quality of life and support available to people living with dementia and their carers.

Officials behind the scheme hailed its initial success after a review into the first ten months of the project revealed big savings from avoided hospital and care home admissions.

They said an independent report strengthened the case for maintaining the service when lottery funding ends next March and for the initiative to be rolled out across the rest of the county after analysis revealed that pressure on NHS and social services had been reduced to the estimated tune of £443,593.

The government’s care minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb also lent his support to growing calls for more Admiral Nurses to be recruited.

Facts and figures

• There are an estimated 16,400 people in Norfolk who have dementia - that’s the populations of Cromer, Hunstanton, and Holt combined.

• Over the next 20 years there will be an estimated additional 9,000 people with dementia, which is the equivalent to the population of Downham Market.

• Cost/benefit analysis undertaken as part of the evaluation of the Admiral Nurse pilot resulted in estimates of direct savings to health and social care of over £443,593 between June 2013 and April 2014.

• The savings were broken down into £342,767 care home cost savings, £63,074 in acute healthcare costs from early identification of health problems, £20,760 in continuing healthcare costs, and £16,992 in improving access to psychological therapies and counselling.

• 94pc of health and social care professionals surveyed said that contact with the Admiral Nurse Service had increased their confidence in dealing with dementia patients and their carers.

• 46pc of health and social care professionals questioned, including GPs, psychiatrists, nurses and social workers said the Admiral Nurse scheme eased pressure on them and reduced contact time.

The two year pilot was launched in April last year after Age UK Norfolk and Dementia UK received £60,000 per annum from the People’s Health Lottery to hire Norfolk’s first Admiral Nurse.

This was followed by an additional commitment from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) of two mental health nurses at an average cost of almost £50,000 to provide Admiral Nurse services to the patients of seven GP practices in Dereham, Watton, Shipdham, Mattishall, North Elmham, and Toftwood.

In its first ten months, the nurses received 230 referrals and an independent survey of 112 service users said the counselling and information provided had a “profound” impact on improving carers’ mental health and increasing their ability to carry on. Twelve cases were identified which without the support of the Admiral Nurse would have resulted in the carer being referred to mental health services.

Zena Aldridge, Admiral Nurse lead, who works for Age UK Norfolk, added that the analysis of the cost benefits of the scheme were underestimated because only 50pc of cases were reviewed.

“The evaluation makes a robust case for continuing the Admiral Nurse service beyond the two year pilot period and extending the service to cover the whole of Norfolk. We want to ensure the service is available on an equal basis to all those caring for a friend or family member with dementia.”

“We are also keen to work with health and social care professionals to create joined-up services so that the right support is available at the right time for those living with and caring for someone with dementia,” she said.

An estimated 12 more Admiral Nurses would help cover the whole of Norfolk.

Mr Lamb said: “This is exactly the sort of preventative care I want to see. The results of this brilliant work appears to be better care for patients and enable people to remain independent with support for longer, but crucially ease pressure on the health and care system. I strongly support extending this approach to the whole county and make it mainstream,” he said.

Neil Ashford, consultant in old age psychiatry at NSFT, added: “The Admiral Nurse service has provided rapid and easy access to specialist, highly skilled support for carers of people with dementia. It is absolutely clear that it should be routinely available as a standard provision to all carers of people with dementia.”

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